Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
Submitted by CWO2 Darrell Beerbohm, U. S. Coast Guard, Retired
Speech written and presented by Gene Beerbohm
My brother Gene gave the following talk to the VFW. I saw the video, very impressed at how well he delivered this message. Damn proud of him. At the end, the emcee who made the announcement in the beginning that this is a memorial and clapping is not required. As the emcee while holding back tears, said, I’ve changed my mind on clapping. They gave my brother a standing ovation, which brought tears to his eyes. Many vets, some in wheelchairs came and thanked him, while also wiping away tears. CWO2 Darrell Beerbohm, U. S. Coast Guard, Retired\
First, I would just like to say what an honor and privilege it is to be asked to speak at this important occasion. Although not a veteran myself, I have had many family members who have served, one being an uncle who survived Pearl Harbor & another who fought in the Korean War. Both my brothers served in the U.S. Coast Guard with one making it his career. And One of my nieces served in the Desert Storm war.
Even though I did not serve, I always have and still do, to this day, look upon all veterans with high regard and give you the utmost respect.
We’re here this morning to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage, and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand amid patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served.
The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself.
Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, and us, so much.
The Greek philosopher Thueydides (Too Ka dides) once said, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
Since the Revolutionary War began, American men and women have been answering the nation’s call to duty. Millions of Americans have fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our freedoms and way of life.
Today our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifices, and even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward to say, I’m ready to serve. They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans. And we thank God that they do.
“The measure of a man’s character is not what he gets from his ancestors, but what he leaves his descendants.“
Sending off a loved one so they can serve in combat must be a surreal experience. I suspect conflicting emotions of fear and pride are present in the minds of both service members and their families.
Like any other send-off, you hold them tight, tell them you love them and watch them head out until they are no longer in sight. But what makes sending a loved one off to the armed forces and to war very different is the all-too-real possibility that a uniformed military officer and chaplain may show up at your doorstep to deliver devastating news.
In fact, I’m confident if you could take the time to learn about any of these veterans that we honor today you’ll be floored by the stories of service and sacrifice, known only to those who witnessed it firsthand. Then, there are the unbelievably brave accounts of heroes who can no longer speak for themselves.
I just heard it put at a recent funeral, “When a person dies, a library burns.” I’ve not thought about it that way before, but I think it is very true.
Now, it’s up to us to not only tell their stories but to honor their service and memory by ensuring their families and survivors are cared for.
It was President Abraham Lincoln who said, "Any nation that does not honor its heroes, will not long endure.” For if we do not remember our defenders, our heroes, how can we expect future generations to step up to serve? Certainly, what happened post-Vietnam, when we forgot about our returning veterans, weakened our nation, and we must never EVER, let that happen again.
Today you are remembering those who have departed from their place on earth. Their dedication, and yours, cannot be taken lightly. Gary Sinese said, “Remembering and honoring our veterans is paramount to our national security.” Gary continues, “This places a critical importance on always taking care of our military service members and their families before, during, and after the battle.”
“The dangers of the 21st century are clear, with no doubt that this century will be equally, if not more dangerous than the previous one. The United States must maintain a strong defense, impossible to do, without strong defenders. And for all they’ve done, for all they have sacrificed, they ask so little in return. Knowing they are honored, that they will get the care they need when they need it, that they are not forgotten, and that their sacrifice is appreciated, can make a world of difference.” I think Gary is right on.
Today we also honor the families of those lost, for you bear a burden that only you can comprehend. We are grateful for the support you gave your loved one, so they could carry out the mission of protecting the rest of us.
We must Never forget the men and women who know all too much the cost of our freedom, for their service to this country is the greatest gift of all. When I look at men and women in uniform, I am reminded of 2 verses from the Bible.
The first is from Mark 9, verse 35, which reads, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all.” And from John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Robert Frost said many years ago, ‘The world is full of willing people: some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.” I know I’m talking to you who are willing to work. You are difference makers and if there are any here today who think they cannot make a difference, I would like to share this short story[JGB1] .
(Story of the Starfish)
There was this terrific storm that threw 1000's of starfish onto the beach. There was this little boy who walked along picking them up, one by one, and started throwing them back into the ocean
A man came by and told the boy he could not possibly make a difference by trying to throw all these starfish back. He just would not be able to keep up. The boy thought for a moment, picked another starfish and threw it into the ocean. “I made a difference to that one.”
Together, we can make a big difference.
But not only are our service men and women “Difference Makers, I challenge all of you to continue being a difference maker as well. Thank you for allowing me to speak at this important Memorial ceremony for the American Veterans. I am honored to have played some small role in supporting this service. Thank you to all those brave warriors in attendance today for everything you have done for our country.
Thank you for answering the call to duty. You have made our armed forces the most respected in the world.
May God bless all those still serving in harm’s way, our military families, and may God Bless, and watch over our America and help us to continue to honor our heroes, so that we may long endure and of course never forget.
I think it safe to say all of us here today honor our country and our flag. At this time, I would like to read a poem by Howard Schnauber. I believe it sums up my thoughts and this is my tribute to all of you here today.
My Name is Old Glory
by Howard Schnauber
I am the flag of the United States
My name is Old Glory.
I fly atop the world's tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America's halls of justice.
I fly majestically over great institutes of learning.
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world.
Look up! And see me!
I stand for peace - honor - truth
I stand for freedom
I am confident - I am arrogant
I am proud.
When I am flown with my fellow
My head is a little higher
My colors a little truer.
I bow to no one.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped - I am saluted - I am respected
I am revered - I am loved, and I am feared.
I have fought every battle of every
war for more than 200 years:
Gettysburg, Shilo, Appomatox, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome, the beaches of Normandy,
the deserts of Africa, the cane fields of the Philippines,
the rice paddies and jungles of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, Vietnam,
Guadalcanal New Britain, Peleliu, and many more islands.
And a score of places long forgotten
by all but those who were with me.
I was there.
I led my soldiers - I followed them.
I watched over them.
They loved me.
I was on a small hill in Iwo Jima.
and I was proud.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of\
countries I have helped set free.
It does not hurt, for I am invincible.
I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of my country,
and when it is by those with whom I have served in battle - it hurts.
But I shall overcome - for I am strong.
I have slipped the bonds of Earth
and stand watch over the
uncharted new frontiers of space
from my vantage point on the moon.
I have been a silent witness to all of America's finest hours.
But my finest hour comes when I am
torn into strips to
be used for bandages for my wounded comrades on the field of battle,
When I fly at half-mast to honor my soldiers,
And when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving
mother at the graveside of her fallen son.
I am proud.
My name is Old Glory.
Dear God - Long may I wave.
As Jesus says in his parable in Matthew 25:23
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
I’m sure our Supreme Commander would say to all of you here:
Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done!